Thoughts on Mad Men: Season 7, The Strategy (SPOILERS)

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by AMC

SPOILERS BELOW!

Pete joined the Mile High Club. Yawn. It’s Pete. Who cares. But Bob Benson’s back! (Sorry, I could not resist the alliteration siren call.) I guess the fact that he’s been absent for a number of episodes dictated that he return with a couple of showstopper scenes? Other things happened that were quite interesting, but I have to get the Bob Benson bit out of the way first.

Bob and Joan

Sal was one of my favorite characters, and it crushed me when he was fired. I don’t have the same kind of attachment to Bob Benson, though I love the fact that he was the catalyst for Pete’s “Not great, Bob.” But I do have enormous sympathy for Bob’s situation and how awful it has to be to hide such an important, defining facet of yourself because people are giant, judgmental jerks. Despite my sympathy for Bob, I felt worse for Joan during the proposal scene. Her life has been anything but easy. She’s fought for every small success that she’s enjoyed, and that partnership came at a steeper price than any person should ever have to pay. For her to be offered the position of beard for Bob, a man she genuinely cares about which means that she will have to swallow any indignation that she feels at the proposal so she won’t hurt him, is just another in a long line of concessions that she is expected to make to navigate the life she’s been handed. And I’m really happy to see that she held out for love. She certainly deserves it.

Roger and Cutler

I’m nothing if not overly dramatic, but does it seem like Roger is being set up to architect his own destruction? Cutler is clearly working on Roger to have him assist with the ouster of Don. And Roger is going to become powerless without someone else in that firm to join with him. He’s leaking power daily. If Don does leave, either on his own steam or otherwise, Roger is toast.

Pete and Peggy and Don

First, I noticed how Don put his dining table back to its former state, including the centerpiece, when he scooped up all of his work stuff and typewriter. Don’s always been a careless type. Always. I’m not saying we’ve not seen successful runs from him, but he’s always been carelessly successful. This, while it may be short-lived, is definitely a change for him. I sincerely hope it’s not. But that was a telling little change, and it’s clear that he’s committed to making a real, sustained turnaround.

I stupidly was delighted when Pete invited Don to the Burger Chef campaign presentation. I knew it would create friction with Lou. I didn’t think about what Pete’s motivation might be. Even after the episode, I’m not sure what Pete’s motivation is in continuing to champion Don. I think the clues are all there, but I’ve been unable to read them. It’s either Peggy or Lou that he’s surely setting up, I’d imagine. Don and Pete have had such a tortured relationship that I need assistance with this one. Help me out, people. What’s Pete up to? Regardless of the motivation, Pete’s maneuver allows me to check out a delightful Lou underbite reaction, and I’m super giddy. I love a pissed-off Lou. I’m less thrilled with an unhappy Peggy – I want her to succeed – but I’m happy to see that she hides her reaction far better than Lou.  

I hate this whole mess. They’re making Peggy construct her own glass ceiling. It’s disgusting. And Peggy lost her last bit of naiveté after Lou gave her Burger Chef and put Don on her team. She instantly knows how gross the maneuver is as it’s happening. The fact that they are trying to make her complicit in it by stating that it’s up to her is one of the nastiest moments on this show. She knows it’s not up to her. And Lou’s disgusting face when Pete says his ridiculous comment about how Peggy is as good as any woman in this business makes me want to find every stupid cardigan sweater within a 100-mile radius, cut it into tiny pieces and let my dog pee on it. Peggy handled it with incredible poise and equanimity.

When Don mentions to Peggy that she change the campaign’s POV from the mother’s perspective to a kid’s, she, perfectionist that she is, begins to doubt herself. Whether she wasn’t completely sold on the campaign or not, she has always had to battle intense self-doubt when it comes to Don, and he’s been notoriously stingy when it comes to handing out recognition of her talent. And it’s not just Don who’s instilled doubt, but his esteem is the one she seeks the most now that Ted’s is tainted.

I love seeing Peggy and Don making their way back to becoming a team again. Together they can accomplish so much, and I’m hoping we can see that storyline as the series ends. I’ve always been most fascinated by what’s going on at the office, and Don and Peggy’s relationship has been the lightning rod for me.

“You love this.” – Peggy

“Not really.” -Don

I loved that short exchange because, that quickly, Don diffused what could have easily and typically escalated, and I think that was the tipping point for the scene. Instead of devolving into a session of finger-pointing and the further destruction of their relationship, they began the work of mending their relationship. It happened that quickly, and yet completely realistically, because of the way Don chose to respond to Peggy. And Don continued to remain, atypically, calm and measured in his responses giving Peggy the chance to actually listen and understand that he does trust her skills, and while he might go a different route, he doesn’t believe that his route is necessarily better. It’s just different.

This is a callback to that scene when Peggy, Pete and Ted are in the restaurant celebrating Ocean Spray in Season 6 and Peggy and Ted are crushing on each other. The Peggy and Ted relationship was not built on a solid foundation, and their love was tainted, but I wonder if the callback is intentional to tell us that something is coming for Peggy and Don? There’s no doubt that Peggy and Don have deep feelings for each other. Forgive me for this, but they really do complete each other. I think they understand each other much better than any other person has understood either of them. That’s sloppily worded, but I think you know what I’m trying to say. I don’t know what a relationship between the two of them would look like, but I was initially horrified by that dance scene. And now I think it’s because Hamm and Moss play so well off of each other that the true emotions of those two characters was just a lot to process. Watching Don’s face register that “coming home” emotion was a big moment there. This is what I tweeted.

And now I feel almost entirely opposite about the whole thing. I trust you, Weiner. Do with it what you will.

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